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MBA after law school? [#permalink] New post 10 Apr 2012, 07:13
Howdy,

my career goal is to run my own law practice, and I'm toying with the idea of pursuing an MBA after law school to advance that goal. I worked as the operations manager of a boutique transactional law firm for three years after college, before starting law school.

Two questions for thought: (1) Does that sound like a solid reason to pursue an MBA? I recognize that most MBA students would earn the degree to enter into the business/finance world, but it seems to me that the education would apply to running a law firm at least as much. (2) If earning an MBA is a good idea, I wonder whether I should work for a while out of law school before starting b-school, or enter b-school upon graduation. The clearer choice seems to be work first, to me. How does my work experience play into this analysis?

Any perspectives?
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Re: MBA after law school? [#permalink] New post 10 Apr 2012, 07:54
If you want to run your own firm, the most important things you can do are gain experience working as a lawyer and build up a book of business. Thus, I would recommend you not attend business school immediately after law school. Going to business school would set you back two years in your legal career, and assuming you don't go in with an offer from a firm that will allow you to defer your employment for two years, it will effectively remove you from the OCR process (which from speaking with my friends currently in law school seems to be the only way to find a job)

Work as a lawyer for a few years, and if you still decide you want to run your own firm, you can reevaluate if you need an MBA or not. You may find that your experience up to that point will suffice, or you may want to complete a part-time or executive MBA to fill in the gaps.

I do feel that a JD/MBA combo is worthwhile, but mostly for people wanting to work in business areas with a heavy legal aspect, such as M&A or distressed investing (bankruptcy law).
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Re: MBA after law school? [#permalink] New post 10 Apr 2012, 08:35
Firstly, I think an MBA would be very useful to run your own firm. I toyed with the idea of going to law school, and in my research I discovered that law partners are generally pretty aweful business people, even at the top firms.

Secondly, I think you should consider going to MBA straight from law school,...reason being that you have a compelling reason to get an MBA, you have a goal, and you have relevant work experience in your field. Going back to work is just burning more time on top of the 3 years for JD and 2 years for MBA.

Finally,...you seem to be dead set on this,.....but setting up your own legal shop sounds like a bad move given the legal market conditions. What is your debt situation like? Law is not where you want to be right now.
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Re: MBA after law school? [#permalink] New post 10 Apr 2012, 09:06
mooze wrote:
Firstly, I think an MBA would be very useful to run your own firm. I toyed with the idea of going to law school, and in my research I discovered that law partners are generally pretty aweful business people, even at the top firms.

Secondly, I think you should consider going to MBA straight from law school,...reason being that you have a compelling reason to get an MBA, you have a goal, and you have relevant work experience in your field. Going back to work is just burning more time on top of the 3 years for JD and 2 years for MBA.

Finally,...you seem to be dead set on this,.....but setting up your own legal shop sounds like a bad move given the legal market conditions. What is your debt situation like? Law is not where you want to be right now.


Mooze,

Thanks for your input.

My own experience at my old firm revealed the exact same thing, at least on that micro scale: law partners are awful business people. I watched for three years as the managing partner/principal operated his practice with glaring inefficiencies and a lack of genuine business sense. That firm could have been much more efficient and profitable.

I want to operate my own practice with high efficiency and a sharp business sense, and it seems to me that an MBA is the place to go to get that.

It's not that I'm dead set on this - it's just that i know its what i want to do. I simply want to take the most intelligent route to get there. I will likely have some debt upon graduation from law school, but it's too early to say for sure as I'm just finishing up my first year. Regardless, the federal loan repayment programs have made law school debt WAY MORE manageable than they've been in the past.

I think there is an argument to be made for going straight to b-school after law school. I could open my practice upon graduation (with a loan) and effectively use b-school's networking element for business referrals.

On the other hand, if I worked as an attorney for a couple years out of law school, I could perhaps save some money and learn from my early mistakes as an associate rather than a principal.

As far as the legal market goes: who knows how it will be in a few years. The legal market cycles more rapidly than people assume, I think. As far as im concerned, its a crap shoot. Although it would be nice to earn a ton of money running my own practice, I will be plenty content if I manage to earn a decent wage as my own boss.
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Re: MBA after law school? [#permalink] New post 10 Apr 2012, 09:25
What a coincidence--I've been debating writing a similar post to this. I'm a lawyer at a top firm who's been considering attending business school in the fall, though in my case it is to transition to the business side. I agree that law firms are glaringly inefficient, but when you bill by the hour (as opposed to by the project), there's little incentive to be more efficient, which kills me every day.

Sandaltan, are you currently in law school? I note that from all I have read, the top business schools generally are more reticient to admit lawyers, so if you can, go for a JD/MBA. Second, what size firm do you want to manage? Are you thinking of your own shop or running a larger, established firm?
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Re: MBA after law school? [#permalink] New post 10 Apr 2012, 09:48
Capr wrote:
What a coincidence--I've been debating writing a similar post to this. I'm a lawyer at a top firm who's been considering attending business school in the fall, though in my case it is to transition to the business side. I agree that law firms are glaringly inefficient, but when you bill by the hour (as opposed to by the project), there's little incentive to be more efficient, which kills me every day.

Sandaltan, are you currently in law school? I note that from all I have read, the top business schools generally are more reticient to admit lawyers, so if you can, go for a JD/MBA. Second, what size firm do you want to manage? Are you thinking of your own shop or running a larger, established firm?


Good point about billing by the hour. My firm billed by the job almost exclusively, but we lacked sophisticated marketing, comprehensive billing software, and we had other front-end deficiencies that certainly impacted our books.

As far as managing a firm goes, I try to keep an open mind. I could envision myself running my own shop or a larger established one. That seems like a decision that will evolve over time, reacting to current market conditions, my personal financial condition, relevant legislative policy and the opportunities and business contacts that present in the next few years.

In truth, I feel like a businessman at heart more than an attorney. Law is an interesting and sophisticated means to that end, in my view. Law seems like a fantastic and rewarding business to run, big or small.
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Re: MBA after law school? [#permalink] New post 10 Apr 2012, 09:53
sandaltan wrote:
mooze wrote:
Firstly, I think an MBA would be very useful to run your own firm. I toyed with the idea of going to law school, and in my research I discovered that law partners are generally pretty aweful business people, even at the top firms.

Secondly, I think you should consider going to MBA straight from law school,...reason being that you have a compelling reason to get an MBA, you have a goal, and you have relevant work experience in your field. Going back to work is just burning more time on top of the 3 years for JD and 2 years for MBA.

Finally,...you seem to be dead set on this,.....but setting up your own legal shop sounds like a bad move given the legal market conditions. What is your debt situation like? Law is not where you want to be right now.


Mooze,

Thanks for your input.

My own experience at my old firm revealed the exact same thing, at least on that micro scale: law partners are awful business people. I watched for three years as the managing partner/principal operated his practice with glaring inefficiencies and a lack of genuine business sense. That firm could have been much more efficient and profitable.

I want to operate my own practice with high efficiency and a sharp business sense, and it seems to me that an MBA is the place to go to get that.

It's not that I'm dead set on this - it's just that i know its what i want to do. I simply want to take the most intelligent route to get there. I will likely have some debt upon graduation from law school, but it's too early to say for sure as I'm just finishing up my first year. Regardless, the federal loan repayment programs have made law school debt WAY MORE manageable than they've been in the past.

I think there is an argument to be made for going straight to b-school after law school. I could open my practice upon graduation (with a loan) and effectively use b-school's networking element for business referrals.

On the other hand, if I worked as an attorney for a couple years out of law school, I could perhaps save some money and learn from my early mistakes as an associate rather than a principal.

As far as the legal market goes: who knows how it will be in a few years. The legal market cycles more rapidly than people assume, I think. As far as im concerned, its a crap shoot. Although it would be nice to earn a ton of money running my own practice, I will be plenty content if I manage to earn a decent wage as my own boss.


Just as long as you think carefully about it. If you want to pursue an MBA in addition to a JD, you need to be extra careful about student debt. If you had to estimate, what would you say your debt will be after law school graduation? And what do you estimate an MBA will cost you? I agree that industries are cyclical, but do you want to bet $100-200k on the legal market bouncing back?

If you think you can run and efficient and profitable law firm in this market, I'm not gonna say you can't. Just make the student debt management your first, second, and third priority. Student loans have a way of crushing dreams.

And I urge you to visit and start a thread on Top Law School forums,..those folks are a bit jaded but they'll provide the harsher "realist" perspective to your goals and the legal market....its good to hear all sides i think.
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Re: MBA after law school? [#permalink] New post 10 Apr 2012, 10:21
mooze wrote:
sandaltan wrote:
mooze wrote:
Firstly, I think an MBA would be very useful to run your own firm. I toyed with the idea of going to law school, and in my research I discovered that law partners are generally pretty aweful business people, even at the top firms.

Secondly, I think you should consider going to MBA straight from law school,...reason being that you have a compelling reason to get an MBA, you have a goal, and you have relevant work experience in your field. Going back to work is just burning more time on top of the 3 years for JD and 2 years for MBA.

Finally,...you seem to be dead set on this,.....but setting up your own legal shop sounds like a bad move given the legal market conditions. What is your debt situation like? Law is not where you want to be right now.


Mooze,

Thanks for your input.

My own experience at my old firm revealed the exact same thing, at least on that micro scale: law partners are awful business people. I watched for three years as the managing partner/principal operated his practice with glaring inefficiencies and a lack of genuine business sense. That firm could have been much more efficient and profitable.

I want to operate my own practice with high efficiency and a sharp business sense, and it seems to me that an MBA is the place to go to get that.

It's not that I'm dead set on this - it's just that i know its what i want to do. I simply want to take the most intelligent route to get there. I will likely have some debt upon graduation from law school, but it's too early to say for sure as I'm just finishing up my first year. Regardless, the federal loan repayment programs have made law school debt WAY MORE manageable than they've been in the past.

I think there is an argument to be made for going straight to b-school after law school. I could open my practice upon graduation (with a loan) and effectively use b-school's networking element for business referrals.

On the other hand, if I worked as an attorney for a couple years out of law school, I could perhaps save some money and learn from my early mistakes as an associate rather than a principal.

As far as the legal market goes: who knows how it will be in a few years. The legal market cycles more rapidly than people assume, I think. As far as im concerned, its a crap shoot. Although it would be nice to earn a ton of money running my own practice, I will be plenty content if I manage to earn a decent wage as my own boss.


Just as long as you think carefully about it. If you want to pursue an MBA in addition to a JD, you need to be extra careful about student debt. If you had to estimate, what would you say your debt will be after law school graduation? And what do you estimate an MBA will cost you? I agree that industries are cyclical, but do you want to bet $100-200k on the legal market bouncing back?

If you think you can run and efficient and profitable law firm in this market, I'm not gonna say you can't. Just make the student debt management your first, second, and third priority. Student loans have a way of crushing dreams.

And I urge you to visit and start a thread on Top Law School forums,..those folks are a bit jaded but they'll provide the harsher "realist" perspective to your goals and the legal market....its good to hear all sides i think.


I've looked around TLS and the forums are unbearable. The general tone has decayed from jaded and realistic into genuinely fearful and hateful, for the most part and from what ive seen, and finding morsels of wisdom is not worth the plunge into that trough.

Just to play devil's advocate for you: why do you say 'be extra careful about student debt' and 'student loans have a way of crushing dreams'?

Truly, from what I can tell, the risks associated with even the largest student loans have been marginalized by the loan repayment programs. Yes, the principal is large, yes the interest is large, yes the balance rapidly increases over time. but still, payments are capped at 10% of discretionary income. If i net $30,000 annually after taxes, I pay $250/month, regardless of how bloated the total balance becomes. Is 10% tiny? no. Is it manageable? yes. recall that the remainder of the balance (probably in the $100's of k's range) is forgiven after 20 years.
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Re: MBA after law school? [#permalink] New post 10 Apr 2012, 10:36
sandaltan wrote:
I've looked around TLS and the forums are unbearable. The general tone has decayed from jaded and realistic into genuinely fearful and hateful, for the most part and from what ive seen, and finding morsels of wisdom is not worth the plunge into that trough.

Just to play devil's advocate for you: why do you say 'be extra careful about student debt' and 'student loans have a way of crushing dreams'?

Truly, from what I can tell, the risks associated with even the largest student loans have been marginalized by the loan repayment programs. Yes, the principal is large, yes the interest is large, yes the balance rapidly increases over time. but still, payments are capped at 10% of discretionary income. If i net $30,000 annually after taxes, I pay $250/month, regardless of how bloated the total balance becomes. Is 10% tiny? no. Is it manageable? yes. recall that the remainder of the balance (probably in the $100's of k's range) is forgiven after 20 years.


lol at your description of TLS. Thats pretty accurate, some of those guys are over the top. But still, there's an underlying truth to much of their pessimism.

About loan repayment, bare in mind that its a government initiative and is therefore subject to change. The 20 year loan forgiveness aspect of IBR could easily be abolished at the whim of congress. If the default rates are high enough, its likely that an outcry in congress will ensue and you'll be left holding the bag. Remember, these are the same folks that refused to fund the FAA. Bottom line, always look at the worst case scenario and ask yourself whether you're willing to foot the bill. If everything works out just so, it may be worth it for you. Just analyze it from all angles is all i'm saying.
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Re: MBA after law school? [#permalink] New post 10 Apr 2012, 11:04
mooze wrote:
sandaltan wrote:
I've looked around TLS and the forums are unbearable. The general tone has decayed from jaded and realistic into genuinely fearful and hateful, for the most part and from what ive seen, and finding morsels of wisdom is not worth the plunge into that trough.

Just to play devil's advocate for you: why do you say 'be extra careful about student debt' and 'student loans have a way of crushing dreams'?

Truly, from what I can tell, the risks associated with even the largest student loans have been marginalized by the loan repayment programs. Yes, the principal is large, yes the interest is large, yes the balance rapidly increases over time. but still, payments are capped at 10% of discretionary income. If i net $30,000 annually after taxes, I pay $250/month, regardless of how bloated the total balance becomes. Is 10% tiny? no. Is it manageable? yes. recall that the remainder of the balance (probably in the $100's of k's range) is forgiven after 20 years.


lol at your description of TLS. Thats pretty accurate, some of those guys are over the top. But still, there's an underlying truth to much of their pessimism.

About loan repayment, bare in mind that its a government initiative and is therefore subject to change. The 20 year loan forgiveness aspect of IBR could easily be abolished at the whim of congress. If the default rates are high enough, its likely that an outcry in congress will ensue and you'll be left holding the bag. Remember, these are the same folks that refused to fund the FAA. Bottom line, always look at the worst case scenario and ask yourself whether you're willing to foot the bill. If everything works out just so, it may be worth it for you. Just analyze it from all angles is all i'm saying.


good points.

It would be awfully shitty if the IBR program was abolished at the whim of congress, although I think us lawyers 'holding the bag' would have a good contracts claim of promissory estoppel to enforce its provisions should that happen - in fact, I bet there would be some class action attorney somewhere representing thousands of graduates who reasonably relied on the provisions of the IBR programs. maybe that person could be me!

:)

I will encourage you (and not that youve done it) to avoid conflating realistic with deliberate, as so many of my classmates and anonymous voices on TLS do, when looking at the future and contemplating where you want to be and what you want to be doing. I think there's a good argument to be made that basically says this: the point of life is joy, and optimists lead more joyful lives. It is better to be happy and optimistic to the fullest extent possible before encroaching on your ability to be deliberate.
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Re: MBA after law school? [#permalink] New post 10 Apr 2012, 11:47
In that case, I wish you the best of luck! Hope it all works out!

For the record, I do consider myself an optimist, but I had a bad experience with UG debt. So much so that I turned down an acceptance from a T14 (MVP) at sticker. So I like to think I have a healthy mix of optimism and realism.

Plus, the idea of a single exam determining my entire grade (and thus my job prospects and entire life trajectory) scared the heck out of me. Going to B-school this fall I will have the luxury of not needing to obsess about my grades. Which should make for a better QOL :)
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Re: MBA after law school? [#permalink] New post 10 Apr 2012, 12:13
Unless you truly love the law, being a lawyer is generally not a pleasant/happy profession. The hours are long and you are constantly hustling for new business until you are established. If you do love the law and want to improve your own smaller law firm, I would recommend practicing as a lawyer and perhaps getting an EMBA or taking certificate courses at a business school. Getting a full MBA, especially with the debt load it will add, is tough to swallow even if payments are capped, and may not be as helpful for what you want to do. That said, it sounds like you may be a businessman at heart. If that's the case, I would strongly recommend seeing if you can be accepted to a JD/MBA program at your current law school or seriously consider dropping out of law school and getting an MBA. The law school forums are jaded for a reason: most law schools teach you crap about practicing law (I remember almost nothing from law school) and lucrative career options are becoming increasingly limited. While a $60k per year job isn't bad, you can get that kind of money in 3 years in a different industry without laying down $150k in student loans to get a law degree. Just a few thoughts and good luck with your decision!
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Re: MBA after law school? [#permalink] New post 11 Apr 2012, 10:53
mooze wrote:
In that case, I wish you the best of luck! Hope it all works out!

For the record, I do consider myself an optimist, but I had a bad experience with UG debt. So much so that I turned down an acceptance from a T14 (MVP) at sticker. So I like to think I have a healthy mix of optimism and realism.

Plus, the idea of a single exam determining my entire grade (and thus my job prospects and entire life trajectory) scared the heck out of me. Going to B-school this fall I will have the luxury of not needing to obsess about my grades. Which should make for a better QOL :)


Im glad you've managed to remain optimistic after a bad ug debt experience. Realistically there are many reasons not to attend law school at all, including MVP, including QOL issues. b-school sounds like a good place for you (and maybe me too).

Yes, law school finals suck hard. Im an eternally positive person, but many of my classmates are visibly depressed and exhausted before the exams even start. Law school's a weird place - they teach you 1 thing, assign you impossible volumes of reading on a 2nd thing, and then test you on a 3rd thing. I just try to study the 3rd thing and not really care about the 30+ hours of reading we're assigned every week.

Good luck in b-school! My cousin is a Columbia MBA grad and he has nothing but awesome things to say about the business school experience as a whole.
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Re: MBA after law school? [#permalink] New post 11 Apr 2012, 11:17
Capr wrote:
Unless you truly love the law, being a lawyer is generally not a pleasant/happy profession. The hours are long and you are constantly hustling for new business until you are established. If you do love the law and want to improve your own smaller law firm, I would recommend practicing as a lawyer and perhaps getting an EMBA or taking certificate courses at a business school. Getting a full MBA, especially with the debt load it will add, is tough to swallow even if payments are capped, and may not be as helpful for what you want to do. That said, it sounds like you may be a businessman at heart. If that's the case, I would strongly recommend seeing if you can be accepted to a JD/MBA program at your current law school or seriously consider dropping out of law school and getting an MBA. The law school forums are jaded for a reason: most law schools teach you crap about practicing law (I remember almost nothing from law school) and lucrative career options are becoming increasingly limited. While a $60k per year job isn't bad, you can get that kind of money in 3 years in a different industry without laying down $150k in student loans to get a law degree. Just a few thoughts and good luck with your decision!


Thanks for your thoughts, this thread has been great.

I feel the exact same way about law school as a 1L. They dont teach you how to be an attorney. It's mind-boggling that the socratic method exists in modern law school, and I feel the whole experience should revolve around substantive clinics, moot court and trial advocacy.

good luck with your transition to the b-side of things should you choose to do it!
Re: MBA after law school?   [#permalink] 11 Apr 2012, 11:17
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